HALIFAX – The Nova Scotia government is pumping another $13.5-million into a transition fund designed to help the forestry industry survive the Northern Pulp mill’s shutdown.
Lands and Forestry Minister Iain Rankin made the announcement at Forest Nova Scotia’s annual general meeting this week.
Rankin explained that the new money will bring the fund back up to its original $50-million before it’s put in a trust, “so it is available for use over multiple years.”
“I made a commitment to workers that we would be there for them in this transition. That’s why we have set up new supports in the short term and are creating this trust – so we have the flexibility to fund more initiatives going forward,” Premier Stephen McNeil later said in a press release.
The original $50-million transition fund was first announced on December 20 after Northern Pulp missed a deadline set out in the Boat Harbour Act that would eventually force it to shut down.
Since then, the transition team in charge of the money has given out $7-million for silviculture and road work, $5-million to guarantee the Forestry Contractor Financing program and $1.5-million to help individual forestry-industry workers.
Shortly before the announcement was made, Robin Wilber, the president of Elmsdale Lumber, told Huddle that the transition fund was a good thing, but that it wouldn’t be enough to save Nova Scotia forestry.
He said the future of the industry “absolutely depends on a market for the lower quality wood coming out of the forest. And in Nova Scotia that’s pulpwood. We had three pulp plants and now we’re down to one.”
Andrew West, of HC Haynes Inc., echoed Wilber’s sentiment.
“We need to find a market for pulpwood. It’s as simple as that,” he said, adding that landowners in the province will lose approximately $2-billion of value from their land if no good market for pulpwood is found.
West and Wilber both say the provincial government isn’t sending a very “business-friendly” message to investors, and worry that could keep potential projects from coming to the province.
That, Wilber said, could eventually mean disaster for the industry.
“I think most people had a vision … that the world was going to come to an end on December 20. Nobody in the industry expected that all the forest workers would leave the forest, that the sawmills would shut down,” he said. “This is more of a slow death.”
West said that, while he doesn’t think forestry in Nova Scotia is dead, it might never look the same.
“It’s not going to collapse completely, but it’s changing drastically.”
Earlier this week, Northern Pulp’s general manager, Bruce Chapman, said the company wants to eventually reopen the mill, but that it could take years to get the proper permits and studies in place to make that happen.